Ice fishing in Colorado is one of the many activities to enjoy during the winter. Here you’ll find out where the best ice fishing spots in Colorado are and what you’ll catch and the main regulations.
Colorado is one of the most popular winter destinations in the US. While most travelers flock to the state to enjoy the ski resorts, some prefer to explore Colorado’s ice fishing opportunities.
The main ice fishing season is from December to late February. That’s when the conditions are more appropriate and the ice is stronger.
There are lakes and reservoirs open to ice fishing all over the state. Here you’ll find the best places for ice fishing in Colorado state and information on regulations, fish species in each of these places and other details.
In this Colorado ice fishing guide, you’ll also find how far each spot is from the cities of Denver, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins.
This should help you choose a spot near a place you’re visiting. This Denver itinerary will help you explore the city when not ice fishing.
.The Colorado Park & Wildlife Authority applies the following restrictions to waters open to ice fishing:
“a. Ice-fishing holes cannot exceed 10 inches in diameter or 10 inches on
b. All fires on the ice must be enclosed in a container.
c. No litter allowed on the ice.
d. Portable ice-fishing shelters (where permitted) must be removed at the
end of the day.
e. Permanent ice-fishing shelters (where permitted) must display the name
and CID number of the owner or user on the outside of the shelter facing
the shore. e. Writing must be in legible, contrasting color letters at least 2
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The Best Lakes for Ice Fishing in Colorado
1- Chambers Lake
Distance from Downtown Denver: 126 milesDistance from Colorado Springs: 195 miles
Distance from Fort Collins: 62 miles
Fish You’ll Catch: Kokanee salmon, lake trout, rainbow, and cutthroat trout.
About Chambers Lake
Located in Larimer County, Chambers Lake is only a 1.5-hour drive from Fort Collins and 2.5 hours from Downtown Denver. This 255-acre cold water reservoir is fed by Laramie River (part of the North Platte River watershed).
Facilities available include a campground, restrooms, drinking water, and a boat ramp available in the warmer months. It’s a popular Colorado ice fishing lake with an abundance of fish. While there, you’ll see that the inlet bay is one of the best places to catch trout. To get better results, try small jigs through the ice to catch kokanee.
A wet slush layer will often form above the ice later in winter, so be very careful when ice fishing in the area.
Find out more about Chambers Lake here
2- Chatfield Reservoir
Distance from Downtown Denver: 23 milesDistance from Colorado Springs: 60 miles
Distance from Fort Collins: 86 miles
Fish You’ll Catch: Bluegill, walleye, crappie, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass, and yellow perch.
Ice Fishing at Chatfield Reservoir
Chatfield Reservoir is another great ice fishing spot in Colorado. This 1,355-acre storage reservoir is located within Chatfield State Park, a short drive from the Greater Denver area. It is fed by the South Platte River. Being located near the most populated area in Colorado, it can get very busy with anglers. But given its vast size, you can still find an area to ice fish.
Some of the facilities include camping and picnic areas, restrooms, 2 boat ramps and hiking trails. Bear in mind that, due to freezing conditions, some facilities are not available in the winter months.
The lake is also a good place to catch trophy-size walleye. You’ll be more successful using live bait rigs and jigging spoons. Rainbow trout can be caught with traditional baits all year-round.
3- Eleven Mile Reservoir
Distance from Downtown Denver: 116 milesDistance from Colorado Springs: 64 miles
Distance from Fort Collins: 187 miles
Fish You’ll Catch: Kokanee salmon, pike, lake trout, rainbow, and cutthroat trout.
Ice Fishing at Eleven Mile Reservoir
Eleven Mile Reservoir is a great place to go fishing throughout the year, located 19 miles from Hartsel-CO. Local amenities include information kiosks, modern and “primitive” camping, picnic areas, outhouses, and boat ramps – note that some of these won’t be available during the ice fishing season.
Eleven Mile Reservoir is one of the ice fishing locations nearest to Fort Collins. With a total of 3,400, it has several fish species. Pike is one of the easiest fish to catch in winter: try using tube jigs tipped with sucker meatfish. For the 2022/2023 ice fishing season, you can expect 18-inch cutbows (a hybrid of cutthroat and rainbow trout).
Important Ice Fishing Rules: 4 trout limit; Only 2 trout over 16 inches; No limit for yellow perch; Portable ice fishing shelters only.
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4- Crawford Reservoir
Distance from Downtown Denver: 274 milesDistance from Colorado Springs: 309 miles
Distance from Fort Collins: 205 miles
Fish You’ll Catch: Northern pike, largemouth bass, yellow perch, crappie, and rainbow trout.
Ice Fishing at Crawford Reservoir
Located only 2 miles from the town of Crawford, this 414-acre reservoir is definitely one of the best places for ice fishing in Colorado. It abounds with different varieties of fish under the ice.
There, you can catch black crappie on the east shore, near the Clear Fork boat ramp. The recommended baits are worms and small tube jigs. For largemouth bass, try spinnerbaits and crankbaits in the rocky areas near the dam.
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5- Trinidad Reservoir
Distance from Downtown Denver: 203 milesDistance from Colorado Springs: 132 miles
Distance from Fort Collins: 265 miles
Fish You’ll Catch: Largemouth bass, walleye, bluegill, crappie, brown and rainbow trout.
Ice Fishing at Trinidad Reservoir
This 800-acre reservoir is worth considering when planning your Colorado ice fishing trip. Located at Trinidad Lake State Park (Las Animas County), it is a good spot to ice fish for walleye, rainbow trout and crappie, among other fish.
Rainbow and brown trout are among the most popular catches here and are available at all locations on the lake. It’s very common to catch 14-16 inch fish at Trinidad Reservoir, sometimes even bigger.
In addition, you’ll find that black crappie is also readily available throughout the lake. Largemouth bass can be found in moderate numbers and are more difficult to catch. Ice fishers have reported catching them using chicken liver as a bait.
6- Blue Mesa Reservoir
Distance from Downtown Denver: 227 milesDistance from Colorado Springs: 190 miles
Distance from Fort Collins: 287 miles
Fish You’ll Catch: Brown trout, lake trout, yellow perch, and kokanee salmon.
Ice Fishing at Blue Mesa Reservoir
Blue Mesa Reservoir is among the most popular places to ice fish in Colorado, despite being quite far from the largest cities in the state. This 9,000-acre reservoir located in Gunnison County is fed by the Gunnison River.
While you can find several fish species on Blue Mesa Reservoir, brown trout, rainbow trout and yellow perch the most popular catch in winter. On your Colorado ice fishing adventure, you can catch trophy lake trout weighing up to 50 pounds.
Important Blue Mesa Reservoir Ice Fishing Rules
- You can only use portable ice fishing
- No bag or possession limit for lake trout
- Only 1 lake trout over 32 inches per day
- Snagging kokanee permitted Nov. 1-Dec. 31
- Bag limit for kokanee is 5
- Possession limit for kokanee is 10
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7- Twin Lakes Reservoir
Distance from Downtown Denver: 150 milesDistance from Colorado Springs: 114 miles
Distance from Fort Collins: 177 miles
Fish You’ll Catch: Longnose sucker, lake trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, snake river cutthroats.
Ice Fishing at Twin Lakes Reservoir
Among the ice fishing lakes in Colorado, Twin Lakes is probably the most picturesque one. The reservoir is located at the foot of Colorado’s tallest peak, Mount Elbert and 3 miles from the town of Granite in Chaffee County. Its recreational area is managed by Colorado Parks & Wildlife and USFS.
Amenities available to anglers ice fishing at Twin Lakes Reservoir include campgrounds, restrooms, trails around the lake, and a lot of fishing access.
Despite the variety of fish, those going ice fishing at Twin Lakes Reservoir will be in a “trout territory”. Rainbow and cutthroat trout are in abundance and average at 13 inches. It’s also possible to catch trophy lake trout averaging just under 19 inches. You’re more likely to have a good catch using jigs tipped with sucker meat.
Important Twin Lakes Reservoir Ice Fishing Rules
- Lake trout 22-34 inches long must be immediately returned to the lake
- The limit for bag and possession of lake trout is one, only
- For other species, the general Colorado bag and possession limits apply.
8- Lake Granby
Distance from Downtown Denver: 94.2 milesDistance from Colorado Springs: 159 miles
Distance from Fort Collins: 98 miles
Fish You’ll Catch: Kokanee salmon, rainbow trout, brown and lake trout.
Ice Fishing at Lake Granby
Located 7 miles from the town of Granby, the lake is fed by the Colorado River and is one of the largest coldwater reservoirs in the state, at 7,250 acres. Lake Grandy is one of the most important places for ice fishing in Colorado, despite being quite far from the major cities. Note that in January, you can be fishing among thousands of other anglers.
Ice fishing enthusiasts coming to Lake Granby will catch mostly lake trout, which dominates the area. Trophy-size lake trouts are a common catch here, with some as big as 32 inches being reported.
When ice fishing for lake trout on Lake Granby, you’ll need tube jiggers over 50 feet, since these fish prefer deep water. Rainbow trout can be caught along the lake shoreline.
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Important Blue Mesa Reservoir Ice Fishing Rules
According to the Colorado Park and Wildlife authority, these are the main regulations for ice fishing at Lake Granby:
- “The bag and possession limit for Lake Trout is four
- Ice fishing shelters must be portable.
- From January 1 through August 31, the bag and possession limit for trout (except Lake Trout) and Kokanee salmon is four fish, singly or in aggregate.
- From September 1 through December 31, the bag and possession limit for trout (except lake trout) is four fish, singly or in aggregate.
- From September 1 through December 31, the bag and possession limit for Kokanee salmon is 10 fish.
- Snagging of Kokanee salmon is permitted in Lake Granby only from September 1 through December 31 except snagging is prohibited in Columbine Bay from the inlet of Twin Creek upstream.
- Gaffs and tail snares are prohibited.”
Where in Colorado Is Ice Fishing Prohibited?
While the above are some of the best Colorado ice fishing spots, it’s important to note that there are some places in the state where ice fishing is strictly prohibited by the Colorado Park & Wildlife Authority.
The reservoir and lakes where ice fishing is prohibited in Colorado are:
- Barker Reservoir, in Boulder
- Cheesman Reservoir, in Douglas/Jefferson counties
- Daigre Lake, in Huerfano County
- Mahatoya State Wildlife Area, Huerfano County
- Montgomery Reservoir, in Park County
- Spinney Mountain Reservoir, Park County
- Rampart Reservoir, El Paso
- Rosemont Reservoir, Teller County
- Runyon/Fountain Lakes State Wildlife Area, Pueblo
To stay up to date with the latest information on ice fishing in Colorado, you can check the Colorado Park and Wildlife website.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where’s the best ice fishing in Colorado?
The best ice fishing in Colorado is in Chambers Lake, Chatfield Reservoir, Eleven Mile Reservoir, Lake Granby, Blue Mesa Reservoir, Crawford Reservoir, Trinidad Reservoir, and Twin Lakes Reservoir.
Do you need a license to icefish in Colorado?
Anyone under the age of 16 can fish in Colorado. Those aged 16 and older must have a fishing license in Colorado, you can check:
When can you ice fish in Colorado?
The ice fishing season is from December to late February.
What month is the best for ice fishing?
January is usually the best month for ice fishing.
While these are some of the top spots for ice fishing in Colorado state, there are many other places for winter fishing. Whichever location you choose, it’s important to remember that you must take precautions when ice fishing. It’s safer to get up-to-date information from local authorities and fishing clubs to make the best of your ice fishing adventure.
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